A “shocking” rise in the number of homeless deaths across Tayside and Fife has sparked calls for more social housing to be made available.
New figures from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) show there were 216 deaths in 2019, about three times the figure for England and Wales.
More than half (54%) were said to be drug-related.
In Fife the numbers trebled in the space of a year, from six in 2018 to 15. There were nine deaths in Dundee City, up from six, and another six in Perth and Kinross. Two deaths were recorded in Angus, compared to none the year before.
The statistics have been compiled using a new method, which searches records for evidence the person might have been homeless.
The figures include people who were staying in temporary accommodation at the time of their deaths, as well as rough sleepers.
Mid-Scotland and Fife Conservative MSP Liz Smith is calling for urgent action. She said her party had committed to end rough sleeping by 2026.
“The homelessness deaths for Fife in 2019 are quite shocking and demonstrate that action needs to be taken by the Scottish Government to address this issue,” she said.
She said the figures also show the homelessness rate for Fife in 2019 was 53.6 per million – above the 52.2 per million overall average in Scotland.
“The Scottish Government have had 14 years to tackle this horrendous problem, but warm words aren’t enough – we need action,” she added.
Alison Watson, director of homeless charity Shelter Scotland, said Scotland already had some of the strongest laws protecting people against homelessness in the world and a commitment to innovate with new approaches like Housing First.
However, she said the system is constantly undermined by the shortage of permanent social housing.
“It is a shortage that leads to long stays in temporary accommodation, people trapped in hotels not homes and record numbers of children perpetually homeless,” she said.
She said being denied the security of a safe and affordable social home adds to the instability many people need to rebuild their lives, creating new health problems and exacerbating those that already exist.
And she also fears post-pandemic figures could be even worse.
“Housing is a matter of life and death,” she said.
“These deaths fall in the long shadow cast by the shortage of social housing.”
Housing minister Kevin Stewart said ending homelessness was a Scottish Government priority and the numbers of people sleeping rough had been reduced.
He said the government was investing £32.5m of its £50m Ending Homelessness Together fund to help local authorities prioritise settled accommodation for al.
The Winter Plan for Social Protection fund, announced in November last year, added another £5m to accelerate this work, he added.
“We must ensure everyone experiencing any form of homelessness is fully supported to overcome the trauma of finding themselves without a home and helped into settled accommodation,” said Mr Stewart.